Monday, March 13, 2023

The Artifice Girl (2022) SXSW 2023 Overlook FIlm Fest 2023

Thoughtful and moving examination of AI and it's place in the world via the story of a computer program built to hunt child predators on line. It may very well be one of the dark horse films for the best of the year viewings.

The film begins when a government agency hauls in a tightly wound man (writer director Franklin Rich) into an interrogation room. They have questions they need answers to. They want to know what he knows about a young girl named Cherry who is trolling the pedophile chat rooms. It comes to pass that she isn't real but a creation of the young man. She is in fact the most advanced AI ever created. What follows is a discussion of all things connected to AI, consciousness and what makes us human.

THE ARTIFICE GIRL floored me. I thought this was going to be a thriller and while it is that in a way, it also revealed itself to be so much more. I honestly didn't expect the the emotion I felt when the film ended. I was so moved that I wanted to go back and see it from the start.

Told in three distinct parts the film ponders the notions of AI and humanity over time. Part one has Cherry just existing on a hard drive. Part two ponders if we should create a robot version. The third part is set fifty years later as Cherry and her dying creator have a heart to heart about all that has happened and may happen in the future. Its a heady mix of emotion and ideas that gets under your skin and gets you thinking and feeling.

Having seen the film I'm totally flummoxed as to why more people aren't talking about the film. I apparently missed the film at several festivals over the last year, and while I had  halfheartedly had it on my possible SXSW dance card it wasn't until Liz Whittemore emailed me to say I HAD to see the film, that I pushed to make it happen. I'm glad I did because this film blew me away.

While I have read some reviews that compared the film to things like Pinocchio, I think doing so is incredibly lazy. Other than a superficial similarity, the truth is THE ARTIFICE GIRL is wholly its own thing. What it does and how it does them makes for a unique viewing experience that forces us to deal with the questions it raises.

I can't recommend this film enough.

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